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Why mental health should be your first priority

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

As dads it can be tempting to compartmentalise feelings and try to plough on. There are many demands on men, both at work and at home, and the days are full. People depend on you. People need you to show up and carry on- or, at least, that can be the perception.

However, considering 1 in 8 men suffer from a mental health problem, mental wellbeing is something that we need to take seriously. Men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide and the highest rate is in men aged 40-49- many of whom are dads.

The truth: men’s mental health statistics

Despite having much higher suicide rates, men often fail to connect with therapy services; the NHS reports that only 36% of referrals are for men.

Men are also far more likely to go missing, or resort to alcohol or drugs.

It may be that society’s expectations on men play a part in the pressure they feel to keep going and not explore their feelings. Men are often expected to be strong and dependable- traits which can make it harder for them to recognise symptoms of mental ill health.

How mental health issues can show up in men

While depression isn’t inherently different in men, male symptoms can include:

  • anger
  • irritability
  • lack of control
  • risk taking
  • aggression
  • escapist behaviour, such as throwing self into work.

Experiencing some of the above symptoms may not necessarily seem indicative of a mental health problem. That’s why it’s important to put your wellbeing first and check in with how you are feeling regularly.

How to prioritise your mental health

Prioritising your mental health is essential to the overall state of your body, relationships and emotional health.

It may seem an inconvenience to schedule a little time to look after yourself. However, the benefits far outweigh the bother.

Here are some ways to build time into your day to look after your mind:

Learn to say no

If you’re asked to commit to something that feels like more than you can give, don’t be afraid to say no. Overstretching yourself for work, friends or family is detrimental to your wellbeing. It’s ok to put yourself first.

Connect with others

Socialising is positive and healthy, so even if you don’t feel like it, prioritise seeing friends. If time is short, make sure to keep in touch by phone or text. Research shows that socialising is as important for humans as sleep and nutrition!

Give back

Spending some of your spare time helping the community has significant benefits for your mental health. Making others feel good makes us feel good too! Do It is a website offering countless part time volunteering opportunities across the country. Alternatively, making an extra effort to help those around you will have the same benefit in micro doses. Perhaps your elderly neighbour needs assistance with their shopping, or a relative could use your help with a DIY task- anything goes.

Get out in nature

Nature has incredible therapeutic effects on the brain. So much so, that in Japan ‘forest bathing’- spending quiet time in the woods- has become a phenomenon. All you need is to head to the nearest forest, beauty spot, nature reserve or park and enjoy a walk or a run. You could also try gardening, a hobby which roots you in nature and is known to reduce stress and anxiety.

Get exercise

It can all feel like too much hassle, but the way you feel after exercise can’t be replaced. Not only does exercise help to release stress, but it also gets the feel-good endorphins pumping in your brain. Exercise can be as simple as going for a daily walk, or as involved as joining a local class. There is an activity for everyone.

Eat to beat stress

You might feel like cracking open a giant bag of crisps or Skittles in front of the TV, but hold off; what you eat has a dramatic effect on the brain. Choose protein to help regulate your mood, and fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins you need to stay well. Avoiding sugar helps lessen anxiety, too.

Make time for fun

Schedule in regular fun activities, be it with the kids or without. Getting out of the house and enjoying yourself helps boost your happiness levels. It needn’t cost the earth either- even a game of bowling or a free trip to the sea will do the trick. Meeting up with friends can be low cost, and ticks the ‘socialising’ and ‘fun’ boxes in one go. Make sure you plan ahead with things to look forward to- it makes a big difference to your stress levels.

Further help and information

To talk to other dads, come and join our friendly forum.

The Samaritans



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